Massey vice chancellor Jan Thomas tries to explain Brash ban

After controversially barred Don Brash yesterday from speaking by cancelling a student political society event at Massey University, vice Chancellor Jan Thomas tried to explain this in an interview on Newstalk ZB.

Massey University defends barring Don Brash

Larry Williams: What were the reasons for cancelling?

Jan Thomas: The reason we cancelled was because the students who had booked the venue and had agreed to terms of use had come to us and identified their concerns around their ability to maintain security at the event, and so on the basis of that we took another look at things and based on some things we were observing on social media I became concerned that there was a genuine threat to the safety of our staff and students and members of the public.

And so unfortunately it’s a really tough decision and I don’t like making these decisions but based on the safety of our community I chose to cancel the event.

Larry Williams: Was this more about your personal views though, you don’t like Dr Brash?

Jan Thomas: Ah, I made the decision on the basis of the safety of our staff. In fact the venue had been booked um for some time and the students association, the politics society, had done a terrific job of setting up a programme of speakers who were going to be discussing their particular perspectives on politics. That of course is the mandate of the student association and I supported that and that had all gone through the normal processes.

So he would have spoken along with other current and future leaders of ah the National Party in a sequence of talks past current and future, ah and ah I think that was, these are precisely the sorts of things that should and do happen on university campuses, and it wasn’t until we became aware of ah concerns around security ah that I made a really difficult decision to cancel the event.

Larry Williams: Yes but you’ve also referenced Dr Brash as a hate speaker, with respect.

Jan Thomas: Ah, I don’t think um that I have referenced that as bluntly as that. What I have said was that ah there was an event held in ah the Manawatu here on our campus, ah from ah Hobson’s Pledge ah which ah was particularly offensive for ah particularly our Maori staff, and ah that is not the sort of thing that I would like to see at a university campus. Um that wasn’t ah Dr Brash speaking, um it was around ah Hobson’s Pledge that particular time.

So those sorts of events are events ah where the discussion um moves from being one ah of talking about ah the issues and evidence based ah good rational debate where people are able to speak about um their perspectives on a whole range of different things.

Larry Williams: yes but you’re shutting that down aren’t you? Ah you know being against race based seats on a council is not akin to hate speech.

Jan Thomas: Ah no um and that is indeed a personal political perspective that I have no question, no problem with…

Larry Williams: It’s called democracy.

Jan Thomas: What I do object to is where um speech that demeans or humiliates or silences groups of people based on a common trait. Ah in other words playing the man and not the ball, ah is ah is something that we don’t accept on a university campus, that everyone should feel that they can express their views in a way that is not um going to be subject to being demeaned or humiliated.

Larry Williams: Well everybody except Don Brash.

Jan Thomas: Um ah well as I said we cancelled this event on the basis of security, ah security concerns um and ah it wouldn’t matter who was speaking. If I have concerns over the safety of our community I would consider ah cancelling events as well because I cannot put at risk ah my staff, students and ah members of the community.

Larry Williams: So who were the threats coming from, where were the threats, what were the threats?

Jan Thomas: Ah well the threats were um coming from um you know a discussion that was happening in social media channels, um and I I do want to say that um I think for universities ah we do have to be particularly careful about these things. There have been some really horrible events happening on university campuses around the world violent things, ah and I we never see that in New Zealand, ah however um I and so I’m very watchful for anything that might ah put at risk our ah safety on campus…

Larry Williams: If it’s threats and it’s violence you’re concerned about, you you you have cowered to the threats, haven’t you. What about the police? Did you call the police in?

Jan Thomas: Um well our um staff are in contact with the police. That’s true. And I guess that was part of the difficult decision, do you completely um ah ah a-a-ah you know ramp up ah significant ah security or do you not. And these are some of the things that we thought about  and talked about and I made the decision that I would cancel the event.

Larry Williams: Yes but it’s hard to come to the conclusion that you cancelled this on security grounds, I mean you also referenced Brash’s support for the Canadians Southern and Molyneux, ah all his support was that he supports free speech along with a raft of other academics both right and left. He didn’t support their views, he supports free speech.

Jan Thomas: Sure.

Larry Williams: But you referenced that as well.

Jan Thomas: Um[or ‘and’]

Larry Williams: You referenced the Canadians as well.

Jan Thomas: Mhm.

Larry Williams: Meaning that the possibility here is the real reason for cancelling this is because you don’t like Dr Brash and what he stands for, what he says.

Jan Thomas: Well we cancelled the event on the basis of our concerns for security. I guess um ah ah um we also have a view that ah hate speech is not acceptable on campus, and I think what you’re doing here is linking those two things quite quite clearly, and um ah you know I do stand by my ah perspectives that hate speech is not welcome on campus, um, and neither is ah ah when there are concerns about security of our community. I will um act in the best interests of our broader community.

Larry Williams: Well again who said Dr Brash was going to be involved in hate speech, where I mean where are the examples of the hate speech?

Jan Thomas: Ah well I I am quite sure that Dr Brash would have done what he was invited to speak on and that was his experience as his leader of the National Party, um and…

Larry Williams: Exactly.

Jan Thomas: Yeh.

Larry Williams: You see this is the university’s politics society. Brash is a former opposi…this is what you do. political views. You debate them.

Jan Thomas: I agree. And as I said, this is the mandate of the students’ politics society, entirely appropriate. And the students’ society has acted in exactly the right way, doing doing having these sorts of events ah to raise awareness of different political spectrum…

Larry Williams: Yeah I mean universities are meant to be the bastion of free speech, vice chancellor.

Jan Thomas: And we support free speech, ah but when it um it leans into hate speech where people are being ah damaged as a result of am…

Larry Williams: What do you mean damaged? I mean previously you’ve said at that um free speech is being a tool of colonialism and must be restricted. Where is the hate coming in all of this?

Jan Thomas:  …uuuum, so I I I feel we’re blurring the issues here, that there is ah we cancelled this event because of security concerns. I also am quite happy to stand behind my comments that hate speech is not welcome on campus, and the way I would consider hate speech is ah when hate speech might demean or humiliate or silence groups of people based on a common trait, whether it be sexuality or religion or race or whatever, um because ah that is essentially ah the same as bullying of a larger group of people, and we don’t tolerate  bullying in the playground do we…

Larry Williams: Yeah well ok there’s no evidence that Dr Brash was bullying anybody. I mean even the Prime Minister is saying this is an overreaction. What’s your take on that?

Jan Thomas: Ah yes and I’ve heard her say that and um that is her view but as the um vice chancellor of this university I made a decision, ah on the basis of the safety for my ah the community that ah come onto this campus, and I take that responsibility very very seriously.

 

Q+A – free speech or hate speech?

Stephen Franks: New Zealanders don’t have to welcome, we didn’t have any desire to welcome, we just wanted people to be allowed to make up their own decision as to who heard, not have politicians make it for them. I think that countries where politicians decide who you can hear and who you can’t, who you can question and challenge…Phil Goff said repeatedly that he had the power to do it, and a whole lot of people jumped in behind him.

We’ve had holocaust deniers, we’ve had scientologists, we’ve had a lot of very very unpleasant people speaking, and we should be able to see them and decide yes that’s unpleasant.

Stacey Morrison: It’s not unpleasant speech, it’s hate speech. Do you not admit it’s hate speech?

Stephen Franks: there’s no difference. Hate speech is just a way for people to try and say ‘I don’t believe in free speech, but i can’t say that, so I’ll call something hate speech – and that’s not free. That’s all it is.

Anjum Rahman: That is absolute nonsense. there’s a lot of research that’s been done on hate speech, and what it does, hate speech, it silences it’s victims, it causes them to withdraw because of fear, it causes them to move from their jobs, leave neighbourhoods…

Corrin Dann: Let’s be clear about the bit that you’re arguing is hate speech, we’re talking about they argue on the IQ thing, on the racial superiority.

Anjum Rahman: It’s not just that. They argue that, for example, their comments around aboriginal culture and that white people have done more in two hundred and fifty six years than aborigines did in forty thousand years and therefore it was a good thing you took the land away.

Stacey Morrison: We need to look at that in the context of this country, and in terms of our bi-cultural framework for our country, and therefore if they’re talking about multiculturalism as a danger and trying to make people feel threatened so that they fight back, that’s when you incite hate.

So telling people that they are threatened is where it becomes dangerous, whereas it’s not true in terms of whether they face danger.

Stephen Franks: I am threatened, I am threatened when Amjun and the Islamic Federation says we don’t want someone coming here who doesn’t like Islam.

Anjum Rahman: I didn’t mention Islam, I’m talking about people, no I did not, I’m talking about the fact that what these people do…what I am saying to you, these acts of hate speech have an impact on people’s daily lives, and what I’m saying to you is whenwould you draw the line? When there are people with tiki torches on the street, and driving cars into people, and killing them, would you stop the line when we start wearing yellow stars, would you stop it when they’re on cattle trains…

Bryce Edwards: We can clearly see that we’ve got this looming culture war, and it’s happening on this panel…it’s actually happening throughout the globe at the moment…it’s an escalation of new debates, and we’re seeing over the last five years that there’s been this rise of radicalism, and we’re seeing it with these Canadian duo, it’s a reactionary version of it.

We’re seeing it on the left, we’re seeing it amongst gender politics, ethnicity politics, it’s happening everywhere.

Corrin Dann: Is New Zealand hostile to that free speech?

Bryce Edwards: I think everywhere’s having to deal with these radical views, especially when they’re pushing the boundaries, to find a way of dealing with it. At the moment the way of dealing with it is to try and ban it, and there will be consequences if we go down that route. I mean it is a logical way to do it, but it means that I think other groups, marginalised groups, suppressed groups will end uip being banned as well.

Stacey Morrison: You don’t need a stage to have a platform, and what they’ve done is performed an excellent PR opportunity. We’ve been talking about people that I didn’t know about a month ago, and therefore in terms of their free speech, that is welcomed on other platforms, you don’t need to be at a particularly privately owned venue like the Powerstation.

Stephen Franks: The question though about rights of assembly and association is that you actually do, because you’re getting a filtered message through almost all media. People actually want to go and say, can I look at, what sort of body language do I see, they want to hear other people’s questions in the meeting. I didn’t want to go and hear them because our researchers said some of it’s quite offensive, it’s set out to be agent provocateur,

Corrin Dann: They don’t have filters on a Youtube channel, you can go and watch half an hour lectures if you really really want…

Stephen Franks: It’s structured the way he wants it. The thing about meetings is that they’re not structured. They’ll get questions and challenges…

Anjum Rahman: Did you see the rules of those…

Stephen Franks: …at a meeting you actually get a chance to make up your mind directly, you see body language, but more importantly you see the other people at the meeting, and you make up your mind how are they feeling…

Corrin Dann: And you think the people going to that meeting were there to be open minded about what was going to be said?

Stephen Franks: As I said, we’re there for the right to do it. I don’t actually care about that meeting. It doesn’t worry me that it was stopped except that it’s a trend that changes our society dramatically. I didn’t like Phil Goff saying…

Anjum Rahman: I just want to go back to what Bryce was saying. This is not new. It happened in the 1930s and 1940s in Germany, it’d happening in Myanmar with that Royhingyas, it happened in Rawanda, it’s happened all around the world and it’s happening all the time. And what the research on hate speech shows is that acts of racist violence are preceded by vilification in speech.

That we create the atmosphere that makes violence acceptable, because victims of that speech are so vilified that people then act it out. And that’s what I’m saying, if you were living in the 1930s at what point would you have said ‘right we have to stop this’. We can’t have this language that’s going to end up at this place.

Bryce Edwards: There are all these offensive things that are being said, and I think you’re right, it’s increasing, but it’s a question of how do you deal with it. Do you suppress it? And does that work? I think we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks it doesn’t work. It’s had the counter effect, that we’ve had more…

Anjum Rahman: I disagree with you, I think it’s really worked. If there had been no protests…I’ve been to a speech like this that was real vilification, I’ve sat through it, there was ov er a hundred people in the room, there was no question and answer session, there were strict rules to their meeting, and there would not have been a debate…

Stacey Morrison: In terms of free speech, whose freedom of speech do we always protect, and in terms of say for instance Taika Waititi as a Maori man saying that New Zealand is racist, no one responded in terms of  that was his freedom of speech to express his opinion, it was more about how dare he say that.

So in these experiences it is important that we look at what we think about this, where we stand, and what we support and at what point we define this as hate speech.

 

 

Latest Lizzie Marvelly rant

From Gezza:


This time it’s another anti-men one – telling women she’s not anti-men.

Occasionally I’ve even been accused of perpetuating hate speech, so perhaps the free speech coalition (or whatever Brash et al are calling themselves these days now that their favourite egregiously offensive speakers have decided not to come to New Zealand) should add me to the list of undesirable rabble-rousers whose free speech rights should be defended to the death.

Although, as I signed Renae Maihi’s petition, I suspect I may fall on the wrong side of the free speech argument, namely as someone whose right to free speech defenders of free speech rather wish they didn’t have to defend.

What the hell does that last sentence even mean?

Recently, however, another accusation of hate has come to light. Apparently, I’m a man-hater. A [male] friend of my partner told her last week that I should write a column about how great men are every couple of months or so to make up for all of the columns I write that give him the impression that I hate men. A kind of “yay for the gents” puff piece to cancel out all of my shrill shrieking would apparently balance the scales.

An old friend of my father also protested to him on the golf course a few months ago that I was being a bit hard on middle-aged white men. Clearly, for some people of the white and male variety, I’ve struck a nerve.

No you haven’t, you are just hearing what a racist, ageist, sexist young bigot you are.

I can’t say I’m surprised. Over the past few years, I’ve heard – from writers much more experienced than myself – that it’s difficult to be a white man these days. “Pale Male Stale is nothing but racism, sexism and ageism wrapped in a pithy phrase,” Jason Krupp wrote in the National Business Review a few years ago.

Oops – there – don’t just take it from me.

Being “an ageing, conservative male” is an “unpardonable sin”, wrote Cameron Slater late last year. People “fair of skin and male of sex” are members of “a despised minority”, Karl du Fresne pontificated in May.

When it comes to pontificating, lady, you leave The Pope in your dust.

It appears that I have added to these gentlemen’s suffering. The least I can do is offer my heartfelt apologies. How challenging it must be to be part of a demographic that is paid more than any other across most sectors, that is better represented than any other in almost every boardroom and in Parliament, and that occupies the vast majority of positions of power in nearly every society.

Unfortunate realities aside, however, I feel that I should set the record straight. I hate inequality. I hate discrimination. I hate sexism and misogyny. But I don’t hate men.

Pull the other one. And the rest of it continues in similar vein.

So this column is for … the good blokes. The ones who support women, who stand up for justice and equality

That’s me 👍🏼

and who don’t interpret advocacy for women’s rights as man-hating.

That’s me too. 👍🏼

Equal pay doing for the same job just as well as any bloke, I’m all for. Should be that way right now. But research & stats actually show that most confident, successful, women are content to be doing what they’re doing, not working 80 hours a week, and not slugging it out in dangerous, so therefore high-paying, jobs, or STEM fields which tend to pay well because they require a high level of training & skill.

But there are plenty of women doctors, lawyers, accountants, and they aren’t sitting on their butts. They’re starting up their own businesses, and standing up for themselves, & busting the boundaries – not just being whining, anti-men bigots, like you.

https://www.nzherald.co.nz/lifestyle/news/article.cfm?c_id=6&objectid=12095666

‘Hate speech’ – hateful expressions, or knowingly stirring up hate

I’ve seen this term used a number of times: “You don’t hate people.”

I have always seen ‘hate’ as a very strong term, but there seems to be a lot of hate today, often for trivial things.

The Oxford dictionary tends towards it being a strong term:

hate (verb)

1 Feel intense dislike for.

   1.2 Have a strong aversion to (something)

Hate (noun)

1 Intense dislike

   1.1 Denoting hostile actions motivated by intense dislike or prejudice

People seem to have intense dislike of fairly trivial things these days. There was an item last night on Sunday on road rage which showed extraordinary and violent reactions to relatively minor incidents on roads.

‘Hate speech’ has been a big talking point lately.

Do people really hate things that others say?

Or do they just hate that people say things they disagree with?

I suspect there’s a lot more tendency towards the latter.

John Roughan: Forceful speech is not always hate speech

Some things a parent says to a child go in very deep and stay for life. I can still hear my mother telling me, “You don’t hate people.”

I quickly forgot who it was I’d just announced I hated because her reply was more interesting. “You hate what they say or do, you don’t hate them. You don’t hate people.” Her tone was matter of fact not moralistic, and I worked out what she meant. It was simply a fact, there was goodness in everyone.

I agree to a large extent, although I thing hate could be justified for some people. Despicable actions can be hated, and despicable people can also be hated.

Hate is a heavy word and I rarely use it…

Same for me, but I see and hear the term used a lot.

…but it is getting quite an airing in this very important debate we are having since Phil Goff closed Auckland Council venues to Stefan Moyneux and Lauren Southern. This week supporters of the mayor have decided “free speech is not hate speech”, which, on the evidence of the banned pair’s internet posts, seems unfair.

Southern hates Islamic attitudes to women and for that reason she hates Islamic immigration. I think my mother would permit that, probably agree with it. I’m not sure what Molyneux hates…

I don’t know whether Southern hates Muslims, Islamic attitudes to women or Islamic immigration. But she certainly seems to stir up feelings of hate, both in support and in opposition to what she says,

I strongly disagree with some aspects of the Islamic religion, but that’s in general terms. I strongly disagree with aspects of the Christian religion, and the Jewish religion, and other religions.

I strongly disagree with some Islamic attitudes to women  – and also to some Kiwi attitudes to women as expressed online.

However I don’t hate Islamic immigration, nor do I fear it. I have no reason to do so. I don’t hate Muslim immigrants, and I certainly don’t hate Muslim people I pass on the streets of Dunedin (that happens quite often). I have no reason whatsoever to hate these people.

But some people do seem to hate Islam, hate Muslims, and appear to hate Muslim immigrants.

If Southern and Molyneux play on some people’s hates and fears, if they provoke expressions of hate, then are they guilty of hate speech?

Or is it just speech that they know will provoke feelings and expressions of hate? Are they trying to generate and propagate a frenzy of hate?

It is possible to stir up hate without using specifically hateful phrases in their speech.

Perhaps that’s what others hate about Southern and Molyneux.

 

Free speech at universities, unless someone says they hate it

Free speech versus hate speech discussions continue, with the Vice-Chancellor of Massey University joining with a promotion of free speech at universities – as long as it isn’t deemed hate speech.

A key question that again isn’t answered – who gets to decide what should be banned as hate speech, and who gets to decide who might say something at some future event that someone else may claim is hate speech?

Professor Jan Thomas (NZH): Free speech is welcome at universities, hate speech is not

An “alt right” speaking event in Auckland has been cancelled after Mayor Phil Goff made it clear the two speakers, Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux, were not welcome and the council would not provide a venue for “hate speech” by people who sought to abuse and insult others.

While I support Mr Goff’s decision, it has kicked off a tide of controversy and has again raised the issue of what differentiates free speech from hate speech.

Issues such as this are increasingly common in New Zealand. Last year a group of high-profile New Zealanders put their names to a statement supporting free speech on New Zealand university campuses.

The open letter warned that freedom of speech was under threat at our universities following the demise of a student group promoting white supremacist beliefs.

If anything threats to free speech have become more pronounced since then.

Let me be clear, hate speech is not free speech. Moreover, as Moana Jackson has eloquently argued, free speech has, especially in colonial societies, long been mobilised as a vehicle for racist comments, judgements and practices.

She is not clear at all about what could constitute ‘hate speech’.

How racist could speech be before it is deemed hateful enough to ban?

Hate speech is repugnant, or as one American legal academic has stated, hate speech is “a rape of human dignity”.

Some hate speech can be repugnant to most people, but no clear line can be drawn between hateful and simply hated, or disliked.

Hate speech should be called out for what it is, especially when it incites violence against minorities.

I think that the law covers inciting violence, in theory at least. But again, it’s difficult to pin down what exactly ‘hate speech’ is.

Beyond the reach of the law, however, the battle against hate speech is fought most effectively through education and courageous leadership, rather than through suppression or legal censure.

Yes, to an extent. It is probably better fought by the weight of condemnation from many people. But that can only be done if the hate speakers are allowed to speak in public in the first place.

And this is where universities can take positive action by providing a venue for reasoned discussion and cogent argument.

After all, the Education Act 1989 compels us to act as “critic and conscience” of society.

This does not just mean protecting the values of academic freedom, it also means standing up for what is right.

Standing up for the freedom to speak, even if some people may not like or agree with what is said, is the right thing to do, isn’t it?

Academics have a responsibility to engage with the communities we serve, to correct error and prejudice and to offer expert views, informed by evidence, reason and well-informed argument.

Speech correctors? By all means speak against crap speech, but not by becoming the speech police.

Academics are not the only ones who can provide expert views, informed by evidence, reason and well-informed argument. And they are also susceptible to being unreasonable, ill-informed poor arguers.

Given the current dominance of wall-to-wall social media and the echo chambers of fake news, universities are in many ways obliged to make positive societal interventions.

Interventions? Sure, any positive input into discussions should be welcomed, but becoming arbiters of what is positive and what is negative, and what is valid discussion versus what is what could be hated or damaging, and what is good to go and what should be banned, is a very tricky thing for university academics to get too involved in.

In this regard, I am guided by the University of California’s former President Clark Kerr’s oft-cited maxim that “the role of universities is not to make ideas safe for students, but to make students safe for ideas”.

That could be interpreted in different ways. When does edgy commentary and debate become unsafe for students?

Public universities have an obligation to uphold our civic leadership role in society and our first responsibility, I would argue, is to do no harm.

Being too heavy handed on what constitutes safe or reasonable speech has the potential to do a lot of harm.

Universities are characterised by the academic values of tolerance, civility, and respect for human dignity.

They may be a self characterisation, but somewhat idealistic and superior.

And that is why it is important to identify and call out any shift from free speech towards hate speech. The challenge we face is to clarify when that shift occurs and to counter it with reason and compassion.

Speaking up against speech you disagree with or dislike is good.

Hate speech has no place at a university.

Any sort of definition is still absent from the discussion.

I have some concerns about what the Vice-Chancellor of Massey University seems to be angling at.

We should be debating  free speech versus hate speech.

But there are signs of major problems and difficulties, where hate speech is often no more than a subjective view on hating what someone says (or could say). Or increasingly, deciding that others might hate what is said or could be said.

Whatever hate is. It is a grossly overused word. It’s common to hear people say they hate all sorts of trivial things.

And protecting free speech is not a trivial thing.

 

‘Free speech’ versus ‘hate speech’ (or intolerance of the intolerant)

The ‘free speech’ debate continues.

‘Free speech’ is not entirely free, and it is far from equal, some people have far more opportunity and power than others to be heard. How free speech should be is a contentious issue.

‘Hate speech’ is harder to define, but someone at Reddit attempted:

“Hate speech” has simply become “Things we hate hearing you say.”

What a weak, feckless, emotionally hysterical culture we’re encouraging.

A quote from Golriz Gaharaman:

“Freedom of speech, like most rights, is not absolute. It’s subject to the rights of others, to safety, freedom, equality. Our gov must balance the right of right wing hate mongers against the greater interests of public safety in NZ. Just as Aus has done in denying their visas.”

I got involved in a discussion on all this on Twitter yesterday (I usually avoid it, it’s difficult to debate well when dabbling while multi tasking). It started with this:

Marianne Elliot: I’m taking notes on who stepped up to support Renae vs who is supporting this lot.

John Hart: The Venn diagram will be two non-intersecting circles I suspect.

PG: I have spoken up for Renae and against Jones’ legal action, and also support free speech at Auckland council venues. You don’t? (I didn’t support Renae’s petition, nor do I support what Southern & Molyneux say).

Sarah Jane Parton: Did you donate to both Renae’s legal fund and Brash et al’s $50k? Are you the ∩?

PG: I’m not cool with him at all. But like many people I have serious concerns about the growing tendency to try to shut down speech people don’t agree with. Have you read this?
http://norightturn.blogspot.com/2018/07/the-cost-of-free-and-democratic-society_9.html

Sarah Jane Parton: WRT to the “legality”, I point you to section 61 of the Human Rights Act,

Sarah Jane Parton: And then there’s the costs of security, policing, damages, etc etc.

PG: Should street protests be banned? There are costs of security, policing and risks of damage with them.
Or a protests a valid form of free speech important to a democracy?

Marianne Elliot: The critical line in that piece is this: “It’s perhaps all too easy to proclaim the general need for tolerance and acceptance of “offence” by others when you’re in a privileged and protected social position.”

PG: As important: “But, if we are going to mark out some social groups as requiring greater protection from the effects of speech, how do we do so, and who gets to decide just who they are? And how do we stop… expanding to capture expression we might think ought to be allowed?”

Marianne Elliot: Those are not simple questions, but with a clear power and risk analysis, nor are they impossible to resolve. The point is that we need someone other than the people who have always been in charge to be leading that conversation.

PG: It’s a growing issue that should be talked about be people other than those in power like . But one of our big challenges is how we do that without being it being trashed by abuse and by polarisation.

Marianne Elliot: Or maybe the biggest challenge is that the people at least risk from hate speech are used to being in charge of our laws and in control of debates about them.

PG: Some of the biggest targets of ‘hate speech’ and abuse and threats and defamation are those most prominent in power.

Marianne Elliot: Defamation is an important legal issue & is also very different hate speech. Calling one powerful white man racist has a very different power & social impact to someone saying “blacks are collectively less intelligent”, or invoking a “quick, decisive, and brutal” white backlash.

PG: It’s different again including many non-powerful white men in general condemnation. I think there needs to be a significant shift, but care has to be taken not to take rights of some when giving them to others.

Marianne Elliot:  Maybe instead it’s time to sit back and listen to the people being harmed by this speech? To listen to their very real and reasonable fears, and resist telling them that they don’t understand what is really at stake?

PG: We should always take time to sit back and listen, but that shouldn’t silence us either. I don’t know who tells others they don’t understand. Attempts to understand should work in all directions. As Andrew said, it’s very complex.

Sarah Jane Parton: I’d like to hear ’ take on this piece.

Eddie Clark: Some differences at the edges maybe, but pretty much agree with Andrew. Anyone who tells you this is simple probably doesn’t understand it well enough.

Marianne Elliot:  It’s not simple. I haven’t heard many say that it is. What many (including me) are saying is that it is time for the people at least risk of harm from harmful speech to listen to people at most risk, and to resist telling them that they don’t understand what’s at stake.

Marianne Elliot:  There are difficult balances to be reached. But for that balance to be fair, what has to change is the make-up of the people who get to dominate the process of reaching that balance.

PG: “what has to change is the make-up of the people who get to dominate the process of reaching that balance” – by suppressing the speech of whom? You can’t easily shut up those you don’t want to hear, nor make those speak who you want to hear.

Marianne Elliot:  Oh lord. I’m not sure there’s much point continuing this conversation if you think that changing the balance of who holds power in setting and interpreting law is about suppressing speech. Over and out.

PG: Oh lord, you’ve jumped to a bit of a conclusion there. I don’t think that.

Sarah Jane Parton: If you are not the people who will be harmed by this stuff then maybe it IS time to be quiet. Goff’s call has not been met with criticism from former refugees, transfolk, or Muslims, which is noteworthy. The ethnic and gender make up of Brash’s “coalition” is also telling.

PG: Are you suggesting that only former refugees, transfolk, Muslims and you should say anything about this? If that’s the case the issue would never have been raised or discussed to any noticeable degree.

Sarah Jane Parton: I’m saying that if you use your privilege to support and amplify the voices of other privileged people whose very aim is to trample on marginalised people, maybe it’s time to be quiet.


That’s more or less how it ran – Twitter threads can get a bit convoluted.

It evolved from debating whether free speech principles overrode claims of hate speech or not, to suggesting that people ‘in privileged positions’ should be quiet and let others speak about the problems with hate speech.

I’m sure no minds were changed in the conversations, but this illustrates some of the issues around complexities of free speech versus hate speech’

It is more an issue of how much intolerance of intolerant speech should limit the freedom to speak.

Free speech and hatemongers

There have been attempts to attack and diminish free speech here by hatemongers in the past, and some individuals try at times to shout/shut down speech the don’t like or disagree with, but that’s not what this is about, it’s about free speech generally (but comes back to being relevant to here).

The Listener: How to deal with New Zealand’s racist hatemongers

It’s tempting to be relaxed about the issue of hate speech in this country, when the sort of racist extremists who are a scourge internationally can muster only a half-dozen miserable specimens for a protest at Parliament.

Our so-called National Front may be risible. But the same weekend its feeble protest was drowned out by anti-racism demonstrators…

This raised questions about whether drowning out and driving away people who had a legal right to conduct a protest is a reasonable response. Free speech should provide a capability to speak in opposition, not to shut others up.

…Iranian Embassy first secretary Hormoz Ghahremani was reported as giving an inflammatory anti-Israel address at a mosque meeting at which others called for the annihilation of Israel and denied the Holocaust.

It is hard to be relaxed about this. The meeting in Auckland was intended to remain private; an unsanctioned YouTube posting was subsequently deplored by the speakers. But it’s not the first time hate speech has been outed in our Muslim community, and the tenor of these comments is always a gut-punch to the New Zealand ethos. We are not immune to the many varieties of racist extremism that cause so much tragedy abroad.

Like moon-landing deniers, anti-Semites ballast their hate speech with allegations that, although they cannot withstand factual scrutiny, are nevertheless readily believed by a rump of society.

You can’t force people to believe in things or not believe in things.

It’s tempting to ban or deport such hatemongers, but that would only strengthen their followers’ conviction that they’re martyred messiahs. More importantly, the suppression of views, however noxious, compromises democratic freedom. Freedom of speech should have as few exceptions as possible. Unless someone actively incites violence or acts of hatred, society is better off hearing their views than not. Inflammatory speech can radicalise people, but at least if we all know about it, we can counter it.

The mosque speakers must now be left in no doubt that an overwhelming majority of New Zealanders deplore their views and would oppose any enactment of them.

I hope an overwhelming majority of New Zealanders deplore their views, and the views of the National Front, but there is a danger in assuming that an overwhelming majority agrees with your own views like this.

Chillingly, Trump now attacks the principle of free speech for others when he demands African-American NFL players be fired for exercising their right to protest during the national anthem.

Trump didn’t just attack their right to speak and protest, he tried to inflict financial damage on sports franchises that didn’t ban protests as he demanded. Deplorable from a president.

Increasingly, overseas universities are the testing grounds for the boundaries between free speech and hate speech. Controversial speakers are typically vetoed by student or faculty activists, or rendered silent by bellicose protest and logistical disruption.

Apart from minor examples we fortunately don’t seem to have much of a problem with this sort of thing here in New Zealand – yet.

It’s perhaps grounding to return to the summation of Voltaire’s philosophy by his biographer Evelyn Beatrice Hall: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Let’s vigorously, loudly and unfailingly deplore hate-speakers – but let’s also accept that banning or over-shouting them will not silence them, let alone change their views. Only free speech, goodwill and truth can do that.

People we disagree with, and whose speech we may deplore, shouldn’t be silenced – any tend not to have their minds changed much either.

But free speech – not unfettered free speech, but free speech that doesn’t compromise free speech, is an important principle to abide by.

This is why one of the primary reasons for moderation here, to protect free speech from those who try to shut up and drive people away by attacking them personally.

I also like to discourage attacking many for the speech or actions of a few (and sometimes just one).

Free speech works two ways – if you want it you also have to allow it for others, even if you don’t like what they say. Personal attacks can be attacks on free speech – and they leave what is disagreed on unresolved.

The most effective response is to debate what you disagree with, armed with facts and reasonableness.

By all means hate what they may say, and argue strongly against it, but don’t hate people you don’t know.

Hide’s “Right Not To Be Offended” column a coincidence?

Rodney Hide was (presumably) deliberately controversial and provocative in speeches at the Act Party conference, with his “and hate the poor, and hate the Maori, and hate the unions – well, that’s true” comment and calling TV3 bastards.

I wonder how coincidental his Sunday Herald column was:

Many now enjoy the Right Not To Be Offended. The right wasn’t granted by Parliament, but it’s nonetheless firmly embedded in our body politic.

There’s no taxpayer-funded commission to police the right. Instead, an army of self-appointed commissioners pore over public comment, eager to take offence on our behalf. Their only reward is the self-righteousness that follows from appearing socially aware and being a tender soul readily offended on behalf of others.

The self-appointed commissioners prove their sensitivity and caring by bellowing the “offensive” comments loudly and heaping abuse on the offenders.

I wonder if this was an excuse prepared in advance. But it’s unlikely to undo any damage caused to Act by his comments.

His ‘hate’ comments will be reported and commented on far more than his column.

And as demonstrated by ACT speaks its branes at The Standard Hide has reinforced widely held perceptions of Act.

@ActParty has said “Those are not ACT’s views.” But most will closely link Hide with the Act Party and will care little for official party denials.

Hide should know that people have a right to be offended if that’s how they feel, and they have a right not to vote for parties that offend them.

He should know that his comments could adveresly affect support for the Act Party and it could adversely affect the party’s survival at the next election.

Was it an act of hoping to pick up some “red neck” support and not caring about what the wider voting public thought?

I’ve seen suggestions that it was an act of revenge by Hide, hitting back at the party that dumped him as leader. I don’t but that – there must be a reasonable relationship between the party and Hide for him to be invited to speak at the conference.

The impression I got from the delivery and repeated looks to a particular part of the audience was that Hide spoke deliberately and in collusion with others.

It seems like a deliberate targeting, both of popular targets for the right and targeting a voting demographic.

Very risky, and it leaves Act with a perception of still being the domain of fringe nutters. I don’t know if there’s enough of them to vote them back into a creible Parliamentary presence.